Love Limits Liberty1st Corinthians 10:23-24 “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person. [HCSB]
What is Christian Liberty. We talk about having liberty in Christ, about how where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. These are all very true statements but what do they mean?
In essence, liberty is freedom from oppression. Throughout the New testament we see that through Christ we are free from the law, free from the frustration of our fallen nature’s inability to keep God’s law, but we are not free from God’s standards.
In other words I can not punch you in the face and then say “I am free in Christ!” Liberty is not saying I can continue to do things that harm myself or my marriage or my children or my community and excuse it with the name of Christ.
"Contrary to popular opinion, freedom is not the ability to do whatever one desires. This inevitably leads to enslavement to our own passions. Rather, the Bible defines freedom as the ability to deny one’s self, to deny one’s desires in the interest of pleasing and glorifying God." ~ Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
If you look at our liberty as being free to glorify God then all of sudden you see we are honestly being held to an even higher standard. That’s what Paul is getting to here in his letter to the church at Corinth, when he says “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person. All of a sudden we realize our liberty is not just about not doing wrong, it is about building up our brothers.
A good example of this in our culture today would be alcohol. No where in the Bible does it say that merely drinking alcohol is a sin, but there are many places in the Bible where it warns us against drinking too much. The Bible paints a picture where not only is drunkenness a sin but letting alcohol get in the way of your relationship with others and with God is a sin, however, having a drink with dinner or a beer with friends and keeping your consumption moderate and within boundaries is not a sin.
BUT still I choose not to drink alcohol at all. Period. I do not drink at home, I do not drink away from home. I do not drink in Cleveland, in Charleston or in Timbuktu no matter where I am at or the situation, I do not consume alcohol. Why? I just explained that it is not sinful to drink in moderation so why do I abstain? Liberty.
If I am ministering to a recovering alcoholic and they see me drinking, even in moderation, then I have given the devil a weapon they can use against them. They may think “Hey the Pastor drinks so I can too and before you know it they are back in the chains of addiction. What if one of our children or youth hear me talk about having a drink and then decide it’s okay for them to follow my example, but they don't realize how dangerous it is to drink and get behind the wheel? Who would be responsible for their actions? Of course they are held accountable for their own choices but I would share the blame.
In my liberty I choose to deny myself so that I will not lead others astray, even accidentally. It is not always about being right or wrong it is about not being a stumbling block. In the sixties the band the Monkees had a hit song “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”, but as Christians perhaps we should think more like “I’m Not Your Tripping Stone." I am more than happy to be a stepping stone for you on your walk of faith that leads you closer to Christ. I do not want to be the stone you trip over on that walk.
What preferences or activities do you have in your personal life that may trip up someone else? What does this liberty to restrain ourselves look like when it comes to our church life? Well one thing that should become obvious within the church is that our liberty should not get in the way of our mission.
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